My popular science article

After a lot of editing, and a lot of feedback, I finally handed my article in and got amazing feedback from the course leader. Yay! So I wanted to share what I did for my Bsc with you guys. I would’ve done that even if the feedback was crap, hah. Well, enjoy!

Never thought I’d say this, but I actually miss the flies…


Experience changes behavior in fruit flies

We know that by definition, a species consists of populations whose individuals are capable of mating with each other and produce fertile offspring. Since Darwin, we’ve come a long way of defining the factors that make up for what we call a species. For a species to live on and continue its evolutionary development, individuals that reproduce sexually must find a mate and produce offspring.

Most of us would likely think that it isn’t such a big deal to find a partner in a diverse world, but how would you know which individuals are best to invest precious energy and time into? And would you really invest in changing your behavior according to previous experience when you only live for 2 weeks? The answer to that might be found in the context of learning in mate choice.

What did I
For my project, I studied the choices male fruit flies (Drosophila melanogaster) make when they’re given chance to choose between two females of different eye color. I also studied whether the eye color of the male would differ in their choice making and so brown-eyed and red-eyed males were used as well.

Screen Shot 2014-05-28 at 7.44.09 pm

The males were either inexperienced with females, e.g. virgins, or had been allowed to mate with females of a certain eye color. Virgin males were allowed to choose between females of different eye color after 3 days of isolation. After the same amount of time to promote learning and assure mating, experienced males were allowed to choose between choosing between a red0 and a brown-eyed female virgin females (fig. 1). The eye color of the female that was mating was noted.

What did I find?
Surprisingly, males of different eye color changed in their choice making of females based on earlier experience, hinting a learning process. But flies don’t distinguish eye colors as humans do, so what could explain this? If anything, it promotes further investigation whether such a small difference like eye color can cause larger differences in behavior even in a short-lived organism as the common fruit fly.

Also, my best friend came to home! He moved to Japan a few years ago, and it’s been lonely, but we met when he was here! For once, it felt great to have a friend close even for a little while. Managed to remember to take a picture. To my defence, the sun was in our faces and I had no idea my Chinese eyes were so pronounced against the sun, haha :) Also, I’ve been so tired, still am. Anyway, here it is. Me and my brother from another mother.

2014-05-28 13.40.02

//c_Cae; let me know what you think, or if you have questions about this, I’d love trying to answer them :) 


2 responses to “My popular science article

  1. Dear Caely,

    All I can think about after reading your article is ‘how did you manage to ride herd on the flies long enough to know which were virgins and which were not….never mind eye color. I suppose you had them segregated and caged and had little bottles with lids and food medium.

    Your article was great and showed why the world needs your critical eyes on things of import in this world.

    Some insight…. I think that if we are ever able to dig deep enough and really know the flies, we will find that given a choice, the males mated with the females who nagged the least. But that’s just my opinion…

    Nice picture. Very cool to see a good friend after a long time apart. And thanks for the picture. You’re beautiful, through and through.



    • Dear D,

      To collect virgin flies was easy. The females hatch first (almost a day before males), so I usually would collect those first. When the males hatch, they take about an hour to tend to their wings. Their exoskeleton also needs to harden, and they’re not sexually mature until at least one hour after hatching. As long as I kept them separate after they’re sexually mature, they would still be virgins once my experiments start. I’ll show you some photos of how I kept them once I’ve presented and defended my thesis :)

      Thanks! You’ve got a point there. The males actually do mate with the females that nag the least, even if it’s the males that do all the courting. But females are pickier the more they get to mate, so that’s very interesting :)

      Well, even though we’re miles apart, I’ll always keep my friends close to heart and that includes you, too.

      Thanks a lot for the response on my research, I don’t get it enough!


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